Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson

This is just the kind of song that every American Idol finalist and semi-finalist hungers for – and so do record labels and publishers. The melody has a huge range, which works well for singers with big voices, and there’s plenty of passion and excitement in the lyrics. If you’re interested in today’s melodic Pop/Rock genre, this is a song that’s worth studying. It offers a master class in contemporary melody and lyric craft.

Read the lyric here.
The Shortcut numbers refer to specific chapters in my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”).

Recorded by Kelly Clarkson
Writers: Jörgen Elofsson, Ali Tamposi, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin.

GENRE: Pop/Rock and Pop/Dance
This is a great Pop/Rock song that went to #1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary (AC) chart. It also made it into the top ten on the Hot 100, Pop, and Dance Club charts. It has enough pumping beat to work in the Dance Clubs and enough lyric depth and craft to make it stands alone as a Pop/Rock song. It’s a great combination.

At 3:42, the song is on the long side, but once it gets rolling, there’s no stopping it! The basic song structure is:


The verses in this song are short, just four lines. This is a good thing because the chorus (beginning with the line “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”) is quite long. It’s double the length we would expect, repeating the phrase “What doesn’t kill you…” four times in each chorus – that’s fourteen times before the song is over! Continue reading

Dynamite – Taio Cruz

“Dynamite” is a Club Dance track that crossed over to the Pop/Dance charts big time! The song has a hot, hot HOT track. The song rides on top of a solid, rock-steady groove adding a vocal melody filled with catchy hooks and a fun lyric.

Recorded by Taio Cruz
Writers: Levin / McKee /Martin /Adetayo / Onile / Gottwald

Lyrics are available on the Internet.
Shortcut numbers refer to my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”). Both are available at

The Club Dance genre features irresistible, infectious grooves that get people out on the dance floor. Vocal melodies have plenty of rhythmic interest, using syncopation and repetition. Lyrics sometimes consist of no more than “let’s dance, get out on the floor “but for a song to crossover to the Pop charts, as this one certainly did, you’ll need to give the lyrics a little more personality and attitude.

In this genre, the lyrics and melody together are referred to as the “top-line.” The top-line is usually written after the instrumental track is roughed out or even completed. A good track producer will make sure that the top-line writer has a clear verse and chorus structure to work with. A few artists who are successful in this genre are Taio Cruz, Lady Gaga, Ellie Goulding, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, David Guetta, and Calvin Harris. Continue reading